IMAGINE a state-of-the-art sports facility sitting right at the heart of Sampaloc, one of Manila’s busiest districts, for basketball junkies who have been settling for street and makeshift courts to play their favorite sport (and being a bane to motorists).
That’s what Jobe Nkemakolam envisions for his hometown if and when he wins in the local elections on Monday.
The former Ateneo big man is running for a seat in Congress, representing the fourth district of Manila, where he is planning to put up a sports complex a la the Blue Eagles’ nest: the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center.
“Wala kasi ditong magandang sports complex eh,” Nkemakolam said in a chat with Spin.ph while on a break during his campaign. “I’m not saying na hindi maganda yung sa Dapitan. However, iba yung level na na-experience ko sa Ateneo, yung standard nila ng magandang basketball court.”
“Parang (Moro) ang balak namin, but we’re still looking for the right place kasi maliit lang yung mga cut ng lupa dito sa Sampaloc,” added the 6-foot-3 Filipino-Nigerian slotman, who played for the Blue Eagles in the mid-2000s.
But his sports program takes a backseat momentarily as he focuses first on health care, hoping to build a hospital that offers free service.
“Ang dami kong kababata na namatay dahil hindi properly na handle yung sakit nila,” said the 31-year-old Nkemakolam, who was born and raised in La Paz, Galicia near University of Santo Tomas. “Ang pangalawa, since ito yung lugar mo, babalik at babalik ka kung saan ka nanggaling, ‘di ba?”
Nkemakolam graduated with an interdisciplinary studies degree, with a track design in communication and psychology, and is taking up his master’s degree at the Ateneo School of Government.
“Maa-apply ko dun yung mga gusto kong programa, isa na dun is bigyan sila ng hospital, libre lahat, since kaya naman,” he said.
As far as his sports program is concerned, Nkemakolam, who went undrafted in the 2009 PBA Draft, hopes to lure the youth away from drugs.
“Para mawala yung impluwensya ng ibang tao na mag-droga sila, kasi sports plays a big role sa mga tao, dyan nade-develop yung attitude ng tao, ‘di ba?”
Still, one can question his political credentials, being a rookie in this field, yet he said his foray into politics was nine years in the making.
“Hindi naman tayo mahuhuli sa pulitika dahil may mga experience rin na mga kaibigan or sa Ateneo, nakapag-aral rin ng mga kurso na related sa politics,” he said. “And it’s all about relationship and compassion in helping other people.”
But why Congress right away and not run for a council seat first?
“Why not?” he said. “I can run for Senate if (I’m eligible)… Age limit lang naman ang usually ang nag-aano sa atin.”
A Senate hopeful must be at least 35 on day of election.
“Hindi naman kung congressman kaagad (ang tinakbo) o councilor. Nasasa iyo yan kung how you handle it and how ka tutulong sa tao,” added the adopted member of PDP-Laban, under standard-bearer and Presidential race frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte.
But that doesn’t mean that he’s already eyeing the Senate next.
“I just want to help my constituents first dahil napakalaki ng Sampaloc and Manila,” said the father of two daughters. “Kung mag-Senate agad o ano, pero hindi mo naman na-improve yung buhay ng tao sa Sampaloc, parang hindi mo naman deserve yun or you didn’t do your job.”
“I have three years to prove myself,” he added.